Do you Feel Sleepy All the Time? The Reasons & Solutions for it

excessive daytime sleepiness Jul 24, 2018

What? It’s already 7? I just went to sleep. Every single person’s story when the alarm goes off in morning. And the whole day we are groggy, sleepy, lethargic, and irritated. During our sleep, the body moves from 5 different stages of REM (Rapid eye movement) and NREM (Non rapid eye movement) sleep and duration of each stage is approx 90 minutes. In NREM stage the body relaxes so that it can repair and build muscles, bones and strengthen the immune system. During REM stage, people dream as the brain activity is increased.(6)

Recommended Hours of sleep as per Age Group

Feeling sleepy throughout the day is also called as Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). The reason for this varies from Jetlag to graveyard shift to having some nutrient deficiency to drinking caffeine during late evening. Let us discuss the reasons and solutions for feeling sleepy all the time.

Reasons for feeling sleepy all the time:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea – It is caused due to the blockage of upper respiratory airway. The person suffering from this sleeping disorder literally stops breathing for a period of 10-20 seconds several times during night. The person frequently wakes from sleep although he/she doesn’t realize it as only the brain wakes up and signals the respiratory system to function properly. This causes a disturbed sleep and EDS to be a most common side effect.(2)
  • Restless Leg Syndrome – The people suffering from this disorder have a crawling feeling or pain in the leg especially in a resting position e.g. while sleeping. This discomfort goes away when the person starts shaking the leg (hence the name) to relieve symptoms which in turn affects the quality and duration of sleep leading to EDS. (2)
  • Narcolepsy – It’s an auto immune neurological condition in which the brain is not able to control sleep and wake cycles. The people suffering from this disorder have decrease levels of Hypocretin – a neurotransmitter that promotes wakefulness. The people with narcolepsy get sleep attacks when they fall asleep at abrupt times lasting from several seconds to several minutes. (2)
  • Deficiency of Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone responsible for regulating the circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) of the body. There are 4 main nutrients which get converted in body to form melatonin – tryptophan, vitamin B6, magnesium and calcium. Deficiency of any one of these causes disturbed sleep at night and feeling of fatigue and sleepiness during day time.(4)
  • Caffeine – Drinking tea or coffee late evening or at night time interferes with the mind and keeps its overactive causing you to be awake at night and feel sleepy the next day.(1)
  • Using gadgets or electronics while lying on bed – Using gadgets or electronics emitting blue light tricks the brain to remain active as it associated light with daytime which in turn disrupts the circadian rhythm and causing lethargic feeling during day because you did not sleep well at night.(1)
  • Stress – It causes the body to go in fight or flight response which causes secretion of adrenaline and hence keeps our body and brain in active state, far away from sleep.

Solutions for managing daytime sleepiness:

  • Get a proper consultation and necessary medications to treat the underlying sleeping disorder (obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome) which in turn will help in getting a restful sleep during night time.
  • It’s necessary to eat a balanced diet in order to provide all the necessary nutrients to the body. The important nutrients for a restful sleep include(4):
  1. Tryptophan – it is an amino acid which gets converted into serotonin (a neurotransmitter) into the body. Serotonin further gets converted into melatonin which is the sleep hormone. The food sources of serotonin include – Dairy (milk, yogurt), Fruits (apple, peaches, avocado, banana) Nuts and seeds ( Flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, cashew, peanut, almonds, walnuts) vegetables (spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, asparagus, onion) and grains (wheat, barley, oats. rice, corn)
  2. Calcium – it is a mineral which helps brain make melatonin. Deficiency of calcium causes waking up at night and difficulty returning to sleep. The food sources include dark green leafy vegetables, milk and milk products, sesame seeds, ragi (finger millet) and sardines.
  3. Magnesium – It is often referred to as sleep mineral and is a natural relaxant which helps deactivate adrenaline. The food sources include Low fat yogurt, avocados, banana, nuts and seeds (almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, flaxseeds), wheat germ, fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, halibut)
  4. Vitamin B6 – Also known as pyridoxine. It helps conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. A deficiency of vitamin B6 causes deficiency of serotonin and hence difficulty falling asleep. The richest food sources are sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, flaxseeds, fish (tuna, salmon, halibut), dried prunes, banana, avocado, spinach.
  • Practice Sleep Hygiene – Sleep hygiene means the circumstances you create for sleeping. It includes your environment of sleeping space, regularity of sleep/wake timings and daytime behavior which can interfere with sleep. general rules include(1):
    Good Morning or Good Night?
  1. Ditch the electronics 30 minutes to 1 hour before going to bed.
  2. Keep your bedroom dark, if not keep a minimum light to make sure brain doesn’t get tricked into feeling its daytime because of the light.
  3. Do not drink coffee or tea or any other caffeinated beverage post lunch or in evening hours or before bed.
  4. Engage in regular exercise – this will ensure to curb your day time fatigue as exercise generates energy and releases endorphins which will make you feel good and hence decrease stress which interferes with sleep.
  • Deep breathing – it helps in decreasing the stress levels thus shifting the body from fight and flight to rest and relax position.

Getting a good night’s sleep is of utmost important as sleep is the time body gets to detoxify and repair and rejuvenate itself. Things interfering with sleep needs to be taken very seriously and worked upon accordingly. Sometimes people sacrifice their sleep just to be at a party or hangout with friends. Once or twice a month is okay but following such behavior for long duration will cause a sleep debt which will lead to various disorders like Heart disease, dementia, weight gain, Diabetes, Hypertension and stroke.(5)

So make sure you are inculcating the above mentioned habits in your daily routine to let your body heal and rejuvenate. Now shut down your laptop or phone you were reading this blog on, practice deep breathing and GOOD NIGHT..!!

References

Neha Tanvani

Eat well to live well is my mantra for life. If your are reading this means you want to know more about me so here it is..! I am a Post Grad in Nutrition and Dietetics from LPU Punjab and have 5 yea

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